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Bishop Speaks
April 17, 2008 Edition

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Under the Gospel Book (en Español)
Bishops' Schedules
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Bishops' Schedules:
Bishop Robert C. Morlino

Monday, April 14,
to Friday, April 18, 2008

Papal Visit to Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
7:00 p.m. -- Preside and preach at Sacrament of Confirmation, at St. Joseph Church, Fort Atkinson

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Attend Clergy Gathering, Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, Madison

Bishop William H. Bullock

Monday, April 21, 2008
12:00 noon -- Preside and Preach at Celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, Madison

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Attend Clergy Gathering, Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, Madison

A bishop's sacred time, sacred space: the cathedral

illustration of Gospel Book being held open over bishop's head

Under the
Gospel Book

+ Bishop Robert
C. Morlino

(printable version)
(en Español)

Editor's Note: Part two in a three-part series

My column last week laid out how our Catholic-Christian faith is a faith of sacred time and sacred space. We discussed how so many people have an idea of religion in this day and age which is remarkably individualistic and subjective, and we discussed how, through their conception of religion, their worship of their idea of God can occur wherever and whenever they are in the mood.

More articles on
St. Raphael Cathedral

However, we noted that the Christ who we as Christians follow is a God who came as space- and time-limited. That is to say that, for whatever mysterious reason, the Son of God chose to come into the world in a particular time and at a particular location, apart from which he was not available in the flesh.

And though the person of Jesus Christ is no longer walking the earth at this time, in Palestine, the location of Jesus Christ still involves sacred time and sacred space - not though the physical body in which he walked the face of the earth for 33 years, but in His body, the Church! The sacred time is the time of the Holy Spirit, the rest of history. (The end of history has begun, the first one, Jesus, has been raised from the dead.) And the sacred space is the Lord's body, His Church.

Now the Church means all of the members of the Body of Christ; it doesn't mean, in the first place, our church buildings. But, if Jesus Christ, according to the Will of God, came in a way that was time-limited and space-limited, and if he made that time and space sacred, how do we embody that in the Church? That Jesus Christ is still time-limited and space-limited in His presence in the world - how do we embody that? We embody it through our buildings and our worship.

In the first place, we embody it through the Sacraments, because the Eucharist is there in the Tabernacle - it is not in your kitchen. The Eucharistic presence is time-limited and space-limited, and an extension of that Sacramental presence of Christ is our church buildings, where the Sacraments are celebrated. That's where we have the sacred times and the sacred places to which we go.

The need for a cathedral church

It interests me, and this is something too that we have to raise very lovingly with our people, why is it that the church building only becomes an issue of grave concern if the parish is going to be merged and maybe that particular building is going to be used to a lesser degree? Then, all of a sudden, that building is sacred in a way that nobody ever said it was before. That's strange, but it helps explain why some people don't see a need for a cathedral.

As a writer recently said in our local newspaper, "we don't need a cathedral. Let's just put the steeple up somehow and have a shelter there for the poor." And one of the cathedral parishioners wrote, in a response that was given a much more obscure spot in the paper, "Isn't it easy for you to take care of somebody else who might be homeless, by making me homeless."

We have church buildings because we have Sacraments. We have Sacraments because the Church is the concrete, visible, physical, time- and space-limited Body of Christ. And we have that kind of a Church because we had that kind of a Christ, who came and walked and preached among us, proclaiming His Kingdom on the face of the earth. As it goes with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit's plan for Jesus Christ, so it goes for His Body, the Church, which lives out of the Sacraments, which need places of worship and times when they can be celebrated.

We need church buildings because we need to celebrate Sacraments. We need to celebrate Sacraments because that's how the Holy Spirit keeps the concrete, visible, physical Body of Christ alive in the world. And we need to keep that concrete, visible, and physical Body of Christ alive in the world to continue the kind of presence that Jesus Christ himself had in time and space because the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit wanted it from all eternity.

So it goes from the Trinity, to Jesus Christ, to His Body, the Church, to the Sacraments, to the place of worship and our worship, through the Sacraments, which sustain His Body, the Church, founded by Jesus Christ, according to the Will of the Holy Trinity. It is a beautiful truth of faith, and we need to be able to explain this to people!

Teaching, sanctifying, governing the Church

One of the seven Sacraments is Holy Orders. The Holy Spirit teaches, sanctifies, and governs His Church through the ministry of bishops, and priests, and deacons, who operate out of those church buildings, preaching and teaching, celebrating the Sacraments - sanctifying, and governing God's people - pastoring them - which always means bringing them to unity in Christ, not having a master/slave relationship, but inviting them to unity in Christ, through the Truth that is taught and the Sacraments which are celebrated. For the governing/pastoring function of the bishop and his priests has everything to do with the Truth that is taught and the Sacraments that are celebrated.

The priesthood belongs, in its fullness, to the bishop, unworthy though we are. He is the one in the diocese who is in charge of teaching, and sanctifying, and governing, and the priests are his helpers and co-workers. If you ever look at the prayer for the Ordination of a Priest, it only has one theme: that just as throughout Salvation History the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit wanted there to be high priests and then those of second rank who assisted them (Moses and Aaron and the whole history of high priests), so too the Apostles of Jesus Christ needed helpers. And the bishop prays then, as he ordains the new priests, "grant us that help, Oh God. We ask you to give these servants of yours the dignity of the priesthood," so that they help us to teach, and to govern, and to sanctify.

The bishop teaches the truth and sanctifies because of his communion with the Successor of Peter. That's how it is that the bishop can teach, govern, and sanctify. If he is not in communion with the Successor of the Apostle Peter, then he leads the Church astray and commits a grave sin. So, if the bishop has the slightest doubt what he should be teaching or how he should be sanctifying, he watches the Holy Father. You just watch him, and you "get it," as a bishop. I like to say that the bishop "glues" the local Church, he "glues" his diocese to the Holy Father, hopefully in a way that is more binding than superglue!

Bishop's sacred time, space - the cathedral

Given everything that we've said to this point, what would be more reasonable than to say that the bishop, as the chief teacher, the chief sanctifier, and the chief governor of the diocese, needs, himself, sacred time and space. And the bishop's sacred time and space has a name - it's a cathedral!

The cathedral is named after the chair, which in Latin is cathedra, which only the cathedral has, from which the bishop exercises his office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. And that is where the chair of the successor of the apostles rests.

So, if one understands the Eternal Plan of the Trinity - Jesus Christ coming in space and time, and making space and time sacred by His coming; and if one understands that He wishes to continue that space- and time-limited presence through His Body, the Church; and if one understands that the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church through the celebration of Sacraments; and if one understands that celebrating Sacraments requires sacred times and places; and if one understands that the teaching, and sanctifying, and governing of the Church happens through bishops, priests, and deacons; and if one understands that the bishop is the chief teacher, governor, and sanctifier in the diocese, then one should understand, by a logical step, that the bishop, in order to carry out his ministry needs the sacred time and space which comes with a cathedral. It could not be any other way if Jesus Christ is who He is!

Thank you for reading this and please look for the third and final part of this series next week.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

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